Breaking down the Big 12 quarterbacks: Part 3

Cooper Neill

Taking an in-depth look at the quarterback situations around the Big 12, finishing with Texas Tech, TCU, and West Virginia

After a truly remarkable run in the Big 12 at quarterback that featured Robert Griffin III's Heisman-winning campaign in 2011 and a host of longtime starters putting up ridiculous numbers last season, the fact that only two schools -- Texas and Kansas -- took their starters at the position to the Big 12 Media Days earlier this week speaks to the conference's high turnover at the most important position on the field.

It's one reason why the conference is expected to be so wide open this year, not to mention one of the advantages Texas holds as possessing perhaps the most proven and reliable quarterback in the conference, an odd phrase to throw at David Ash following a 2012 season that saw some high peaks and low valleys.

Let's look around the league to assess the quarterback situations at each school.

TCU Horned Frogs

Starter/likely starter: Casey Pachall

Experience level: Now a senior, Pachall started as a sophomore for TCU, emerging as one of the better quarterbacks in the league at a time when the depth at the position was ridiculously high. However, Pachall missed most of his junior season after entering rehab for substance abuse issues and has not yet been declared the starter again.

The take from Patterson:

A lot of people ask me why I didn't bring him to media days. Number one, we don't know who our starting quarterback is. Two, it doesn't have anything to do with what my intentions were. If you really want to know the truth about it, him and I talked, and I kind of mentioned, look, you need to get some of this stuff out of the way because these guys are going to ask these questions down the road.

But kind of like he did in the spring. He asked me when he came in, coach, can I just be a student, or can I be a football player? So what I've done is I've left him alone. I asked him before media days. I ask him about, now, do you want to go? And his whole thing is: I just want to be a student. I want to be a football player.

So I'm letting him do his thing, keep the pressure off of him. I think having a two-quarterback situation that we feel like we have two quarterbacks now that can go win ball games in the Big 12 is a positive as far as the pressure type and go forward.

Casey is a very talented young man. How he handles everything and does will be an indication of how well we do in the Big 12 Conference. If you want to play well in the Big 12, you've got to play well at quarterback. Even last year, when Trevone played well, we won. When he didn't play well, we lost, and you've got to play good defense.

So having a Casey Pachall back, I think he was the number one ranked quarterback after four games when we set him aside, I think tells you when he comes back and plays at that level, it gives us a better chance to win.

Expectations: When assessing what's expected from the Brownwood native in his final season at TCU, it's impossible to completely write him off because of the personal demons he's been battling over the last year, but it's also incredibly difficult to trust him to return to the form that served him so well over the year and a half he spent as a starter for the Horned Frogs.

Which is the real Casey Pachall? The answer, as is typical in these situations, is both. He's both the extraordinarily talented passer who finished 12th nationally in passer rating in 2011 and the troubled kid who is trying to get his life back on track and give himself a shot at the NFL.

The end result is a low-floor, high-ceiling player who could easily become the best quarterback in the Big 12 this season or flame out once again if he returns to his former ways. There's really no way of knowing and it's hard to take Patterson's public pronouncements at face value, though the TCU head coach's thoughts about Pachall having deeper conversations with him and seeing the color return to his face probably can be.

For Pachall, the expectations of what he will do are in the eyes of the beholder -- optimistic TCU fans surely believe that he'll produce at a high level, but those who seriously question his decision-making ability off the field are likely still feeling pessimistic about his return.

Projections: 2,800 yards passing | 66.2% completions | 22 touchdowns | 8 interceptions

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Starter/likely starter: Michael Brewer

Experience level: The 6'1, 183-pound Lake Travis product played in nine games as a redshirt freshman, completing 34-of-48 passes (70.2%) and averaging 7.8 yards per attempt with a 4-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also added nine carries for 20 yards. Since he enrolled early out of high school in 2011, he has now spent three springs in Lubbock.

The take from Kingsbury:

It's been good. We were really pleased with Michael Brewer and Davis Webb's progress in the spring. Those guys kind of separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

We'll get them to fall camp and probably go about two weeks, it varies, before we name a starter and try to get the scrimmage in. See how the seven-on-seven is going this summer, see how the film is, and just who separates themselves.

We did that last year at Texas A&M and worked out a little bit for us. Hopefully, we have that same success.

Expectations: Quarterback transitions have never been particularly difficult at Texas Tech since Kingsbury was behind center for the Red Raiders a decade ago -- it's partly a credit to former coach Mike Leach and partly a credit purely to Airraid offenses in general, which seem to provide an easy and effective framework in which quarterbacks can step in and contribute at a high level right away.

Personally, Kingsbury oversaw the incredible success story of Johnny Manziel in College Station last fall, but he'll be dealing with a slightly less talented quarterback this time around, though that's no slight to Brewer, who has already earned comparisons to Manziel from his head coach as a result of his ability to extend plays with his feet.

The mobility is something Brewer brings to the table that former Red Raider quarterbacks have not to the same extent. As a result, the quarterback run game will be a bigger part of the offense, which should help spring a talented running back corps.

In other words, Brewer won't be asked to rely purely on his own arm to produce offense as former Tech offenses asked their quarterbacks to carry virtually the entire load, which will both decrease pressure on the young quarterback and put him in favorable positions for success.

His success last season in limited duty and a strong spring game that saw him throw for 282 yards are both strong signs that he'll be able to transition quickly to the starting role (assuming he wins it) and continue in the long line of prolific starting quarterbacks in Lubbock.

Projections: 3,200 yards passing | 64.5% completions | 19 touchdowns passing | 9 interceptions | 415 rushing yards | 5 rushing touchdowns

West Virginia Mountaineers

Starter/likely starter: Clint Trickett or Ford Childress

Experience: The two competitors to take over from the departed Geno Smith couldn't be much further apart in terms of experience, even though neither has thrown a live pass for the Mountaineers. A junior, Trickett got some important reps as a freshman filling in for an injured EJ Manuel and acquitted himself well against Clemson in a close loss.

Meanwhile, Childress redshirted during his first season in Morgantown after coming out of The Kinkaid School in Houston as a consensus four-star prospect 247Sports had rated as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country.

The elder statesman is junior Paul Millard, another Texas product (Flower Mound), but the guess here is that he's a distant third in the race right now and a likely non-factor come the fall.

The take from Holgorsen:

The quarterback play in the Big 12 last year was phenomenal, and it's always going to be phenomenal. It's just going to be with newer people. Who are guy is going to be, I don't know. We've got Clint Trickett coming in, who has probably as much experience in the college game as anybody in the Big 12, just because he's been a starter in some big games, he's been around it his whole life. He's a very smart kid, graduated at Florida State in three years, backed up two first-round draft picks at Florida State in three years.

He's been around it his whole life and is a good player. And didn't tell him that he was going to start either. He's got to come in and beat an experienced Paul Millard out, who has taken more reps than anybody on our campus. He's taken 50 percent of the reps for a long, long time in practice. So he knows the offense better than anybody.

And then you've got Ford Childress, who's going to continue to get better and better. He may have more potential than any of the other guys. He's just young, with four years remaining.

I like where we're at with it and look forward to getting there and being able to coach him. I'm not going to put a timetable on it. When one of those guys steps up, we're going to name the starter and move forward with reps.

Expectations: As mentioned above with Brewer, Airraid offenses have typically done well in quarterback transitions, but this one will be the first for Holgorsen as a head coach. And as much as he helped develop Smith into a top-flight college quarterback, it's also the first transition that will spotlight players he was responsible for bringing to Morgantown.

As a result, the expectations for Holgorsen to produce quality play at the position may be greater than the individual pressure put upon whichever individual ends up winning the job.

The favorite at this point is probably Trickett due to his experience, but he's also skinny enough that his durability could become a concern and if the Mountaineers can find a deep threat -- no small feat given the departures at the position -- it could help spur Holgorsen to insert Childress, who has the prototypical size and arm strength.

Whichever one wins out, they will be expected to produce some big numbers. After all, that's simply what Airraid offenses do, regardless of overall talent level and experience.

Projections (Trickett): 3,150 yards passing | 65.5% completions | 18 touchdowns | 11 interceptions

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